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Ethan’s Big Rig Construction Birthday Party

2013 December 31
by Becky

In October, I asked Ethan what kind of birthday party he’d like this year. “A digger party with a bulldozer cake” was his quick reply.

I wasn’t surprised, the kid can’t stop talking about diggers, graders, back-hoes, bulldozers, and cranes, it only made sense that he’d want them incorporated in his third birthday celebration.

So began the party planning. Yes, I start early because the holidays get NUTS. Naturally the first thing we needed was an invitation. And, with the help of my Silhouette machine, the result was pretty darn adorable:

Construction Theme Birthday Party Invitation at

This theme just screamed “KRAFT!” so I used a free kraft paper background I scrounged up online (like this one), then used a font called “Drafting” from to give the simply worded invitation a true construction/planning feel. Adding a crane to the details corner was too much fun…I just recreated something I saw online using lines in InDesign. The “1” in 11am is being put in place by the crane, the black and yellow line borders helped to finish it all off. Ethan’s picture is actually printed on the card, but the front loader vehicle I pasted onto the card after creating and cutting the pieces on my Silhouette. There were several rounds of samples printed before getting this part right. Plus a little assembly time. Good thing I didn’t have to make too many.


To get the picture, I had Ethan sit in a basket and then cut him out in Photoshop. It took lots of outtakes to get the perfect picture, but I bribed him with chocolate so he was a good sport. That’s my trick in any photography situation with kids…chocolate.

Ethan thought this card was THE BOMB. “I’m in the scoop!” was his response to seeing the whole thing put together for the first time.

Construction Theme Birthday Party Invitation at

One of Ethan’s buddies got the invitation and said, “Someone should tell Ethan that isn’t very safe.” Nothing like a fun (and thrill-seeking!) invitation to get the party started, right?

The rest really fell into place pretty easily over the following few weeks. We knew it had to be inside thanks to our lovely December weather, and after looking into a couple space options, we decided to keep things at home again this year. It’s just so much easier and WAY cheaper to do parties at our house.

We turned our dining room into a construction site and things turned out pretty cute.

Construction Theme Birthday Party Door Wreath at

Caution tape (from Home Depot) was  a cheap and easy way to really theme the place up. It was criss-crossed on exterior windows, the food table, dining room fireplace, and wrapped around a plain stick wreath on the front door. Our neighbors probably wondered what the heck happened at our house.

Construction Theme Birthday Party Decorations at PreparingforPeanut.comSnapped the night before

Construction Theme Birthday Party Decorations at

A simple bunting featuring the Drafting font and kraft paper flags, orange construction sign food labels, kraft paper table cover, balloons, and more caution tape created the centerpiece of our party space. Ethan’s new crane had a spot of honor too—boy was it the perfect table accessory! We served simple stuff: PBJs for the kids, lunch meat on dollar rolls for the adults, white chocolate drizzled popcorn, hot spinach artichoke dip, and strawberry pineapple skewers. Note to self—always make double the fruit skewers as they are hella popular with the youngins. 

In sticking with the orange theme, mimosas were ready for the parents. Hey, a little champagne is never a bad idea at a kids party.

With such a distinct theme like this, it seemed some costumes were in order…

Construction Theme Birthday Party Hats at

Each kid was given a monogrammed hard hat upon arrival. All tried it on and looked adorable, but only about half the little guests sported their hat throughout the party. Even Ethan had trouble keeping his in place. I ordered the hats (from Amazon) and used foam sheets (from Hobby Lobby) to hand cut the orange squares and blue initials. For a perfect letter, I printed the letters in a font I loved, then cut them out and traced them on the foam. We had 6 “C” kids at the party—Claire, Connor, Colin, Charlotte, Cate, Cordelia—crazy.

The last thing on my list, to do just hours before party time, was the cake. After calling a few of my favorite local bakeries and finding them closed for the holidays, I decided to bite the bullet and make the cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love to bake, but cakes aren’t my strong suit.

Using this recipe, I baked four rounds—two 9″ and two 6″—and a vat of chocolate icing the day before, but had to somehow create the “Bulldozer cake” of Ethan’s dreams with no real cake knowledge. This should be a testament to exactly how easy it was to make a cute cake, because I seriously had no idea what I was doing. I looked at a couple pictures online and starting carving and icing.

Construction Theme Birthday Party Cake at

The chocolate rocks (that REALLY looked like rocks!) from Hobby Lobby were a big help, as well as the pre-made yellow fondant I cut using some printed letters as a template. A few cone candles, some homemade paper road signs, and a couple mini-machines made the whole thing come together in a downright cute cake…if I do say so myself. The taste? Not incredible. But no complaints were filed by the kids.

Ethan thought it was amazing. Goal = attained.

Construction Theme Birthday Party Cake at

As for party play, we thought “stations” would work and came up with four activities suited for three year olds: Wrecking Crane, Tattoos, Hammering, and Truck Driving. The feature that materialized first was the wrecking crane, which really began when our artificial tree arrived in a nice, big, sturdy box. More boxes arrived with more holiday purchases and soon I had a plan.

Construction Theme Birthday Party - How to Build a Wrecking Crane at

A giant roll of yellow paper (from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s), some leftover black paint, a few hand weights, and a whole lotta tape later, we had the makings of a crane. Grandpa helped to fashion a wrecking ball using a random chain, a molly bolt, a ball of newspaper and BAM…it was done. Literally.

Construction Theme Birthday Party - DIY Wrecking Crane at

Grandpa and Ethan put the finishing touches on the masterpiece, spending plenty of time testing it out on our Melissa and Doug cardboard blocks. Our contraption can really pack a punch!

Construction Theme Birthday Party - DIY Wrecking Crane at

Thinking it may be totally stupid, I was ecstatic to find the crane was incredibly popular. We had little construction workers wrecking throughout the whole party…good thing my dad and uncle took turns monitoring the area as at times it was a true test in sharing. But the kids knocked down stack after stack of the lightweight blocks, excitedly yelling and kicking the remaining piles. One kid even hilariously named my uncle Rob, “Rob the Builder.”

The Hammering Station was also a busy place.

Construction Theme Birthday Party - Hammering Station at

Using Ethan’s new toy hammer (a convenient Christmas gift) and a wood mallet, two kids could be hammering away together, driving golf tee nails into floral styrofoam I picked up at The Dollar Store. I also left some toy pliers out for anyone who wanted to retrieve their nails.

Construction Theme Birthday Party - Hammering Station at

Construction Theme Birthday Party - Hammering Station at

We even included our old Ikea Mula toy for some hammering…worked like a charm. Somehow the sound of little dudes at work didn’t bother anyone, it was just so stinkin cute to watch.

We put every truck, machine, car, digger, bus, and anything else with wheels as well as a basket of wood blocks out for kids to play. I grabbed extra mini-machines (mostly excavators, as those seemed to be the most popular) at The Dollar Store to double as an activity AND a favor.

This was about half our stash…it’s getting out of control.


The original plan was to play with these toys in a rice sensory bin but after letting Ethan try that out a few days prior, we quickly realized what a HUGE mistake it would be. Picturing our entire house covered in rice, we decided the floor was a better option.

The kids didn’t care. Even the littlest of guests had fun holding and carrying around a vehicle or two.


Lastly, Grandma was a the ready to apply tool tattoos—after finding them at the party store for around $1, I figured what the heck? Every kid needs a little ink.


The kids raced around between the stations until we couldn’t hold Ethan back from his cake any longer. Time to sing Happy Birthday…the part where I get all choked up and almost cry in front of everyone. The culmination of the day, the week, the year, making our Peanut a real three  year old.



Ethan had practiced blowing out those candles a dozen times, he was ready. A few weeks ago he told me, “Mom, I’m a big boy. But don’t worry, I’ll still be your baby.” Sob. How is he three??!

Construction Theme Birthday Party at

So here’s where you stop thinking I’m crafty and see through my seemingly-sane exterior to my deep-dark-crazy-lady side. We had an actual construction vehicle at the party. Sitting out on the street in front of our house for the kids to “drive.”

Construction Theme Birthday Party - Riding The Rig at

Without really meaning to, we are starting a running theme of having some sort of vehicle at Ethan’s birthday parties. Like last year’s school bus? But this year no renting was involved. I simply called the construction company handling the alley renovation across the street and asked if they would kindly move on of their machines in front of my house. I was quickly reminded of how ridiculously nice construction managers are…without hesitation, the guy asked if we wanted the machine “cleaned up!” I was hoping for a digger (excavator), but was perfectly happy with the beat-up little Bob Cat that pulled up a couple days before the party. Being smaller, I wasn’t nervous about letting the kids get in to check it out.

Just goes to show, it never hurts to ask!

Construction Theme Birthday Party - Party Favors at

We sent each kid home with their hat and some favors all packed into bright yellow buckets. Each included a small tub of Playdoh, whistle (payback for all the parents who’ve sent them home with my kid), a few sweet treats, and each kid got to pick a mini machine to take along.

So that’s Ethan’s birthday party…I’m calling it a “Huge Hit.” (Pun intended)

Construction Theme Birthday Party - Birthday Boy at

Goes to show a party doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to be super fun and themed out. We appreciate all the help in hosting and were thrilled so many of Ethan’s buddies (and their parents) could join us. We can’t wait to find out what Ethan picks next year…

And, as we’ve done the past two years, here’s our 2013 Year In Review video

(Here’s where you can find Year One and Year Two)
Happy 2014!!! 

45 Responses
  1. Lara permalink
    January 1, 2014

    You never fail to amaze me. This party is spectacular. I should hire you to do our kiddo birthday parties. Wow. Just wow.

    • Becky permalink*
      January 1, 2014

      We missed you guys. I could just imagine Luke taking a turn with the wrecking ball…right up his alley. :)

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    January 1, 2014

    I’m with Lara, “you never fail to amaze me”. What a wonderful 3rd birthday party for Ethan. I love the theme, the games and food you made. Your so talented Becky!!

    Your blog is a gift to me since I cannot always be there to see my Grandson.

    • Becky permalink*
      January 1, 2014

      Wish you could have been there! Maybe next year?

  3. Grandpa Joe permalink
    January 1, 2014

    You are amazing!
    Ethan’s Birthday Parties are “Must Be There” events.
    And what a big guy………….with all the goings-on……
    he shared with all his Friends.
    All our love,

    • Becky permalink*
      January 1, 2014

      Thanks to your help, the Wrecking Crane was a huge success.

  4. January 1, 2014

    This is absolutely amazing!

    • Becky permalink*
      January 1, 2014

      Thanks! We had so much fun.

  5. January 1, 2014

    Looks like a really fun party. Good ideas and colorful too. The real construction machine was over the top. Ethan looks so happy. Cute cake! Good job.

    • Becky permalink*
      January 3, 2014

      Thank you! Wish you could have been there.

  6. January 2, 2014

    Fantastic – especially those invitations, my word.

    • Becky permalink*
      January 3, 2014

      Coming from you, one of the most talented people on the planet, that is quite a compliment. Thank you!!

  7. Shannon permalink
    January 2, 2014

    Amazing!! So when are you opening your party planning business? And to think this happened a few days after Christmas. You truly are a Super Mom! Miss you guys. Hugs and happy birthday to Ethan!

    • Becky permalink*
      January 3, 2014

      Ha, no one would want me planning their party…they’d be sick of me in a minute. Miss you too! Your boys are SO big.

  8. Kristan permalink
    January 2, 2014

    Amazing. Need I say more?!! But seeing how into all construction vehicles Ethan is sure makes me miss you guys!! Quinn would have had an absolute blast! Happy birthday to your big boy! Love you guys :)

    • Becky permalink*
      January 3, 2014

      We need to get them together in 2014…Stu and I were JUST talking about how fun a trip to DC would be. I have babies to meet!!

  9. January 5, 2014

    Wow, awesome job once again! What a lucky little dude!!

  10. Lauren G permalink
    January 6, 2014

    The pictures are amazing. Anytime I tell someone about the parties posted on your blog, they’re just flabbergasted. You set the bar so high, but keep outdoing yourself every year! Looks like Ethan had a great time too!

  11. December 5, 2014

    That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate information… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read post!
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  12. March 12, 2015

    I was curious where you found the front loader cut file. I am unable to find something similar.



    • Becky permalink*
      March 12, 2015

      I just traced a picture and edited the tracing Emily! I never find what I want in the pre-made stuff so I make almost every thing from scratch.

  13. Dayna permalink
    April 27, 2015

    Hi there! This is such an amazing party and all your hard work really shows! I am currently planning my son’s second birthday party with the same theme, but I am having a terrible time finding buckets like the ones you sent home as party favors. Would you happen to remember where you got those from? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

    Thanks again,

    • Becky permalink*
      April 28, 2015

      Hi! Thank you! I got the buckets at Party City. That place has everything! Good luck with your party!!

  14. Amy permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Thank you for all the tips! It looked like you threw a wonderful party. I’m planning a construction party for my son and your games are great! I love the crane with wrecking ball. I was trying to figure out how to do something like that and yours is perfect. You seem like a fun, creative mom. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Becky permalink*
      June 15, 2015

      Thank you! The party was SO fun and the crane was a cinch, you could totally make it. Your son will be thrilled!!

  15. Dawn permalink
    June 19, 2015

    Where did you find his shirt?

  16. July 18, 2015

    More fun Construction Invitations can be found here

  17. Stephanie permalink
    August 17, 2015

    I love the tower crane for the cake. Where did you find that?

    • Becky permalink*
      August 20, 2015

      Do you mean the toy crane off to the side of the cake? That is from Pottery Barn and was a gift for Christmas. Kind of pricey but we had a gift card and a discount code and the crane is REALLY well made and sturdy…Ethan has had some rough construction jobs for it and it’s held up just fine. :)

      • Stephanie permalink
        August 28, 2015

        Thanks! I found it! It is pricey. But really cute.

  18. March 8, 2016

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  19. March 8, 2016

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  20. jocelyn permalink
    June 3, 2017

    I love the wrecking ball idea and also the idea to ask neighboring construction to get to sit in their real life vehicles!! I would never think to do that. We don’t have any construction nearby lately but a good tip to keep in mind. Looks like a super fun party to plan and attend! <3

    • Becky permalink*
      June 3, 2017

      Thank you Jocelyn! It was a really fun party, still one of my favorites. Never hurts to ask a local construction company if they’ll just drive something over, they may need a place to park it over the weekend anyway! :)

  21. November 29, 2017

    Very different and unique idea.I liked the decoration and theme very much.My kid will really have fun and bash at this theme party.

  22. July 7, 2018

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  23. Jessica permalink
    September 17, 2018

    These were genuinely really cute. I loved the cake and that his grandpa helped make the crane. Now I am thinking about adding a crane to my grandson’s party because Grandma’s can make cranes too!!! Loved his party pics and am doing a similar theme for my grandson who will be 2 on 9/30. Thank you for sharing.

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